A few weeks ago, I sat down with my laptop and go-to study playlist and began my first ever practice GRE exam. I was THAT jerk in high school who never even looked at an ACT prep book, yet rolled into the test and got a score I never dreamed of being able to get, so naturally I was pretty confident in my abilities to whip out a killer score with minimum effort. I finished the test under time and excitedly clicked “View my Score.”

So…I viewed my score. My incredibly, painfully low score. Ouch.

There I was: my ego crushed, my spirits low, my stomach craving ice cream. I went into the test expecting the absolute best, and left feeling utterly embarrassed that I thought I could conquer the GRE in one unprepared shot. In a word, I was humbled.

Which brings me to what this is really about:

There are three words that I absolutely abhor seeing on social media. Typically accompanied by pictures of nature, non-candid laughter or engagement photos in fields, these words are: “blessed,” “thankful,” and “humbled.” They are words rich in meaning, and when used properly, convey beautiful emotions. But sadly, their proper use is not the norm.

For years I’ve suffered through reading about the world’s hashtag blessedness and thankfulness, but the recent trend of self-proclaimed humility has sent this [perhaps overdramatic] writer over the linguistic edge.

The first time I cocked a snarky brow at the word “humbled” was senior year of high school. I had just lost an award that I really wanted and was egotistically convinced I was going to win. I sent a congratulatory text to my friend who did get it, and she sweetly responded with her thanks, noting that she was “so humbled to have this opportunity.”

Wait, what? If anyone was “humbled” in this situation, wouldn’t it be the girl crying in the bathroom because this was her first taste of real rejection, and every experience leading up to this moment had conditioned her to think that because she was “so amazing” there was no way she couldn’t win? Sitting on the edge of a toilet wiping mascara off your face while reading bathroom stall graffiti…now THAT’S humbling.

Maybe it’s just me being judgmental. Maybe my respect for the English language and admittedly annoying dedication for its proper use makes me hypersensitive to cliché words. But maybe—just maybe—my judgment is warranted.

Let’s get to the basics. Being humbled is, by definition, to be “lowered in dignity or importance.”

I went ahead and replaced “humbled” with “lowered in importance” to see this definition in action:

  • “I am feeling so lowered in importance by the amazing internship in a cool city I just got!”
  • “I have been truly lowered in importance by being crowned Homecoming Queen.”
  • “I am so lowered in importance to announce the thousands of dollars I’m spending to study abroad for a semester!”

How could accomplishing something that you’re bragging about on Facebook possibly have humbled you? If you’re humble––if you’re “showing a low estimate of your own importance”––then why are you making an effort to actually broadcast your own importance? (Hint: it’s because being legitimately humbled doesn’t result in likes on Facebook/it’s a trendy word to use.)

Being humbled is important. Being humbled means you’re grounded. But being humbled should not be the buzzphrase that makes you feel less conceited while writing self-serving Facebook statuses.

I was humbled when I lost that competition my senior year of high school. I was humbled when I didn’t get hired for four jobs my freshman year of college. I was humbled when 10 agencies didn’t respond to my internship resume I sent out last spring. And let me tell you, I was damn humbled when I received my GRE score.

I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t announce on Facebook––I’m just an easily annoyed bystander with free time to write about it. I’m simply throwing it out there (read: begging) that if you’re proud of yourself, leave it at that. If you’re posting it on social media, share your excitement! But for the love of Merriam-Webster, don’t hide your happiness behind a thin veil of humility.

And hey, if you share this post, I would be INCREDIBLY humb—, nope, excited that you agree with me.

A semester erased

Last weekend, the fatal combination of my iPhone, water and an accidental software update left me with an unresponsive phone and the crushing reality that I couldn’t remember the last time I had backed it up to my computer.

Call me crazy/overdramatic/first world problematic, but this is where the panic and immense urge to kick myself set in, for two reasons:

First, since the age I could operate a camera, pictures have been a huge part of my life. I have a 200gb photo library on my computer of photos I’ve taken since 2004 and I keep thousands on my phone. I’m not GOOD at taking pictures, but I relentlessly take them nonetheless. They immediately evoke memories; they take you back to times that would have easily been forgotten.

I snap photos of friends when the light hits them just right, I take selfies with my cats, I screenshot Snapchats that show off my favorite people’s weird personalities, I make gifs of my roommate running down the hallway, I shoot videos of ukulele parodies, I take panoramas of thousands of people in Memorial Stadium. I photograph to remember emotions, to remember jokes, to remember people, to remember huge plates of pancakes that I miraculously finished.

Second, I am no stranger to technology. I’ve owned an iPhone since its 2007 release, I have two external hard drives for my laptop, I’ve fixed friends’ spinning-beachball-of-doom computers and crashing phones. I know you need to backup your phone, but I lazily ignored the “unable to complete backup” error message. I know iCloud backups exist, but hated the idea of having all my information in the cloud. I know I should have a life proof case on my phone, but the case’s camera cover decreases the quality of photos. Which brings me back to my heartache of the week:

I have no pictures from September 9, 2015 to December 5, 2015. A semester of concerts, hiking, traveling, working, laughing, studying, living: erased drowned. (Water damage is real, friends.)

After I had a shiny new rose gold phone in my hands and I discovered this news, my mind raced to all of the places I could recover these memories: Does Jillian save all the pictures I send her? Does VSCOcam save the photos I uploaded to edit? Are we sure Google/Apple/U.S. Government hasn’t been secretly saving all my pictures somewhere?

So here they are: the salvaged remnants of my junior year of college. The good, the bad, and the downright ugly (I’m looking at you, passport photo.)

final collage.png

I’ll never recover the video of me rapping “Love the Way You Lie,” or the pictures from when I met George Lucas. I can’t scroll through hundreds of photos that tell the story of my 5th semester at Mizzou. I ditched my fears of internet insecurity and signed up for an iCloud backup.

And most importantly, I’ve accepted the fact that even without photo documentation, these people, this semester, this life, is still as memorable as I could ever hope.

12 Faces of Friendship

Two summers ago, I bought lilyzacharias.com at 2am when I was supposed to be writing a paper, and ever since this commitment to a lifetime charge of $14 a month, my website has caused me to be the butt of many of my friends’  jokes. My defense that journalism majors are almost expected to have their own websites these days failed, and I began to question it myself.

Is it self-glorifying to think that someone is going to visit a website named after my name? Do I look like a complete try-hard? Is this why everyone hates journalism students?!

Eventually I came to terms with the idea that going into a creative field warrants a creative website, and I have loved customizing and personalizing it (and learning a bit of code) ever since. In this weekend’s redesign, I completely revamped my main site (not this one, just to clarify) using Adobe Muse, a steep upgrade from GoDaddy and WordPress.

But this time, I didn’t want to make it all about me–who I am is not because of me, it’s because of the people who surround me. The faces that now grace the bottom of lilyzacharias.com belong to phenomenal people, and life would be painfully dull without them.

Take a look and read about 12 of the incredible men and women who I am lucky enough to call my friends.


Six Failed Goals

My dedication to planners has always been weak. Each August, the excitement builds of buying the new planner, buying the new pens to write with in the new planner, a handful of elaborate to-do lists that I confidently vow to accomplish and finally, faded interest and complete neglect for organization.

I wouldn’t call myself a procrastinator. I plan strategically and meticulously; it just sometimes takes a few internal pep talks to actually get around to executing the plan. I will plan my class schedule months before registration, but wait until it’s almost syllabus week to actually submit it online. I still write to-do lists during class, but never actually open my planner while doing homework to check the boxes off.

In April, I found a small, floral notebook from August 2014 with 6 goals for first semester sophomore year scribbled in purple pen. I read the list and immediately burst out laughing:

  1. Fitness
  2. Budgeting
  3. 3.8 GPA
  4. Save 1700 dollars
  5. Heal and run
  6. Write more letters

Six simple, achievable goals…and I had quite literally accomplished zero of them.

Freshman year Lily would have cried. She would have called her mom then sobbed over a “low” GPA and a few added pounds. Sophomore Lily, on the other hand, ran to tell her roommate and laugh at the list’s hilarious complete and total failure.

Goals are simply that: goals. They’re not set in stone, they’re something to work toward. Did I get a 3.8 GPA? No. Did I write more letters to my boyfriend? No. (Though I did break up with him!) Did I heal my ankle and run more? Absolutely not. First semester was, in reality, rough. But it led to the incredible second semester that I would gladly trade a few GPA points for.

I imagine myself last August jotting down a list to accomplish 6 things that actually did happen sophomore year:

  1. Become inseparable with girls you barely talked to freshman
  2. Attend a new church, student ministry and bible study 
  3. Change your major 3 times and find a mentor in the journalism school who sends you apps that make your face into emojis
  4. Meet a group of solid guys and spend every Thursday at a coffeeshop with them (even if one is there only through FaceTime from 8 time zones away)
  5. Bruise your face on a bed frame from laughing so hard at middle school Taylor Swift covers and listen to the story about your best friend throwing up in a Scooby Doo costume more times than you can count
  6. Ask a new friend to drive with you to the middle of nowhere 90 minutes away to pay a speeding ticket and surprise visit his grandma on the way home

None of these things could have ever been predicted–nor do they even slightly align with the goals I had set forth for the year–but yet all of these things are worth the original list’s weight in gold.

In true Lily Zacharias form, I wrote down my semester goals for this year throughout the first week of class. Gone are the dreams of rock hard abs and high GPAs; in their place are hopes of limiting social media and waking up earlier. In a few months, I may find this list and laugh once again at my failed pursuits. But just as it did in April, laughs will be had and life will go on.

One thing I’m lucky I have is the ability to not take life too seriously and to turn unfortunate and/or embarrassing situations into go-to funny stories that my friends have heard all too often. In the coming months, the only goal I can be confident in accomplishing is continuing to find myself in situations that will spawn my next batch of ridiculous storytelling material–and no amount of failed goals could ever outweigh that.

The Things I’ve Never Thanked My Mom For

As I write this, I am sitting on a plane watching Columbia get smaller and smaller as I head home to Chicago to celebrate a special day for a special lady. Sunday marks the (29th) birthday of my beautiful mom.

RhonBon/Rhondizzle is much more than a mom. She’s a musician with a knack for interior design, a Southern cook, an animal lover and a Star Wars enthusiast. She’s spunky, she’s strong, she magically gets an accent when we’re in the South, she walks better in high heels than any gal I know, and most importantly, she would do anything for anyone.

My mom once held a little boy she had never met on her shoulders during a 20 minute light show at Disneyland so he could see over the crowd. She supports two impoverished children halfway across the world and sends care packages to them throughout the year. She held a dying dog in her arms on the side of the road after a car hit him until his owner came. She is an incredible woman who does not get nearly the amount of recognition that she should. She, of course, would never tell you these things herself.

So here I am, exposing all of Rhon’s best-kept secrets. (I heard she’s killer at playing Rock Band drums for “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”). There are many things I have never thanked my mom for and this birthday weekend seems like the perfect time to start:

Bon Jovi concert, April 2012, KCMO. Jamming with Jon’s mic.

Thank you for raising me with a strong adoration for Bon Jovi and for bringing me to four concerts. You have not only exposed me to the greatest song of all time (“Livin’ on a Prayer”, duh), but also given me the opportunity to use “I’ve touched Bon Jovi twice” as my fun fact for eternity. Crazy things happen in 4th row pit seats.

Thank you for showing me that dreams don’t always have to be realistic and that nothing can stop me from achieving them. Thank you for letting me choose where to go to school and for frequently posting “MIZ” as your Facebook status during football season.

Thank you for buying me not one, but two, cans of pepper spray before I went to college. I have yet to use them, but I will think of you if the need arises (let’s hope it doesn’t?)

Thank you for keeping me from being over-dramatic about trivial things (cough, St. Louis spray tan fiasco of summer 2014) but always being the person I turn to when things really do go wrong. Even when I’m 300 miles away you’re the first I call.

Thank you trying to get me to learn piano, flute, oboe and the ukulele. It was a valiant effort on both our parts, but I somehow missed getting your naturally-musically-gifted gene!

September 2013: the month we realized there’s no way to make a neck brace fashionable.

Thank you for flying to Columbia for my various injuries and surgeries and not disowning me for the associated medical bills. I’m still going strong on the New Year’s resolution to stay out of the ER!

Thank you for introducing me to every comedy TV show under the sun. Reba, The Office, Arrested Development, The Middle, The Nanny, Friends, About a Boy–I love that we both appreciate the political jokes in 30 Rock and that you only judge me a little for being obsessed with Matthew Perry.

Thank you for coming to my middle school basketball and volleyball games, my diving meets, my cheer competitions. Only a mother could watch that much athletic incapacity that many times without losing her mind.

We don’t look alike.
Thank you for instilling in me a deep love of musicals. My friends at college think it’s weird when I watch CATS at work, but some of my fondest memories are of going to see shows together. Without you, I wouldn’t listen to the Music Man soundtrack on a regular basis, and really, what would life be without 76 Trombones?!

Thank you for raising me in the church and always reminding me of what truly matters in life. Thank you for sending me to small Lutheran schools before letting me into the big, bad, world of Wheaton public schools (there’s that sarcasm you love).

Thank you for never giving up on me or anyone else, Mom. I would not be half the person I am today without your love and support throughout the years. Thank you for so much more that I could never fit in one post.

I love you and your endless texting typos. Happy birthday to the most fabulous woman I know.